Aug. 08--Embattled Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Chief John Yuknavich, already facing theft charges for allegedly stealing from the department, was hit Wednesday with six new theft counts alleging he diverted more than $48,000 for his own use.
Yuknavich, 49, of 668 E. Northampton St., Wilkes-Barre Township, is charged with four felony counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received and two misdemeanor counts of the same offense.
The chief was led into court in handcuffs for an initial arraignment Wednesday morning wearing a baseball cap and a neon green sleeveless shirt. He left a free man after Magisterial District Judge Michael Dotzel released him on his own recognizance.
Yuknavich had little to say to waiting reporters as he walked briskly to a waiting pickup.
"We'll straighten it all out," Yuknavich said. "No biggie."
Yuknavich is still awaiting trial on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and access device fraud alleging he wrote himself $11,865 in fire department checks and spent $3,706 on the fire company's Sam's Club credit card.
That trial -- which involved a prosecutor being ordered to jail and the relationship between Luzerne County Judge Joe Sklarosky Jr. and Yuknavich's defense attorney being questioned -- is postponed indefinitely. Prosecutors appealed a ruling that prohibited evidence they say is key to their case, namely records of a November 2008 bank withdrawal and 15 bounced fire department checks.
He remains free on $15,000 bail in that case.
The charges filed by state police Wednesday allege investigators learned of new offenses while preparing for trial in that case. A review of the books by the Department of Auditor General showed that on several occasions, checks to the fire department from the business manager were not deposited into the department's account, according to a police affidavit.
The township's business administrator, Michael Revitt, told investigators the township issues a monthly check for $3,500 to the department to cover the $2,900-per-month mortgage and bills. Revitt told authorities that the check was previously written for $1,500 but the amount increased when Yuknavich realized the township collects money through an emergency medical services tax, according to the affidavit.
Revitt told investigators that he did not require receipts from the fire department until Yuknavich was arrested.
A teller at the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union told investigators she recalled Yuknavich coming in with checks for $3,500 -- but he would deposit only part of the check and take the rest in cash, according to the affidavit.
Another teller told investigators Yuknavich would call the credit union and verbally authorize other people to sign for the checks, police said.
A review of copied checks found that Yuknavich failed to deposit $48,712 into the fire department's account between 2008 and 2012, police said.
The affidavit says Yuknavich also deposited $295 in fire department checks into his personal bank account.
Yuknavich is due back in court for a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m. Aug. 28.
Copyright 2013 - The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.